Talks on the future Government
This week has been marked by heated talks over the structure of the new Government, to be led by Social-Democrat Viorica Dancila, the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister in Romanian history. At the same time the Social-Democratic Party has decided to update the governing program that won them the legislative elections, without however modifying the measures stipulated in the document. Social Democratic leader Liviu Dragnea.
Liviu Dragnea: “We will firmly stand by the objectives we set both during the election campaign and in the governing programme, adopted in Parliament in January and re-adopted, with minor changes, in summer, namely to observe the important macro-economic indicators, which we did in 2017, despite untruthful predictions saying the opposite. We also maintain our major goal, that of bringing more money into Romanians' pockets, and the pension and salary rises we have announced will go ahead as planned, and in some cases even better than planned”.
The new Cabinet is due to receive Parliament’s vote of confidence in the coming week. The opposition National Liberal Party and Save Romania Union have announced they will vote against the Government, the Liberals saying that designating Viorica Dancila as Prime Minister was an ill-inspired move. We recall that in December 2016 the Social-Democrats won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections and formed a ruling coalition, alongside the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Romania. Last summer, the party marked a first in Romanian post-communist politics: it overthrew its own cabinet, led by Sorin Grindeanu, lodging a no-confidence vote in Parliament. This month the party leadership withdrew their support for Prime Minister Mihai Tudose, designating MEP Viorica Dancila in his stead.
European Commission concerned over the Romanian justice system
The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on Wednesday submitted a joint statement, calling on the Romanian Parliament to reconsider the judicial reform operated by the ruling coalition. “The independence of Romania’s judicial system and its capacity to fight corruption effectively are essential cornerstones of a strong Romania in the European Union,” the statement reads. The document further shows that the Commission will carefully examine the changes brought to the justice laws, the criminal codes and the laws regarding conflict of interests, so as to assess their impact on the efforts to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption. The reaction of Bucharest authorities was quick. The speakers of the two chambers of Romania’s Parliament dismissed the Commission’s criticism. In a response letter, the speakers of the two chambers of Parliament, Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, claim that European officials have been misinformed on the reform of the judiciary, and that the design and examination of legislation was in line with constitutional standards and standards issued by the Venice Commission. Moreover, according to the two officials, the reform in the justice system was done precisely in order to bring it in line with recommendations from Brussels. A 2017 ECHR report submitted on Thursday in Strasbourg, however, shows that the Romanian justice system does not work properly. Romania has the most lawsuits in the European Court of Human Rights, even more than states like Russia, Turkey, or Ukraine. The Romanian state has been found in violation of the principle of the right to a fair trial, the normal length of a trial and property rights. Most of the 9,900 human rights violation lawsuits have been brought by inmates that complain about jail conditions.
Romania and the presidency of the EU
Romania is preparing to take over the six-month presidency of the European Union Council on January 1, 2019. Almost two thousand Romanian civil servants are working or have been scheduled to work in Brussels, some attending training courses. The authorities say that the presidency will focus on transparency, and have launched public consultations to this end. According to the Minister for European Affairs, Victor Negrescu, Romania has to show professionalism in this respect, but also to take advantage of this moment in order to improve its image and consolidate its European position.
24 January – The Union of the Principalities
On January 24th, Romania celebrated 159 years since the union of the Romanian Principalities. In 1859, the Electoral Assemblies of Moldavia and Wallachia elected the same ruler, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, which was the start of an ample process of modernization of the newly created state. 59 years later, the Great Union of 1918 occurred on December 1, bringing together most territories with a majority ethnic Romanian population. The celebrations included military and religious ceremonies, flower wreath laying, and open air shows. President Klaus Iohannis attended a scientific event held by the Romanian Academy, with the title ‘The Union of the Romanian Principalities, Foundational Event of the Great Union of 1918’.